Trustee David Kabiller Equips Student-Athletes for Success
Gifts establish NU For Life professional development program and new scholarship fund
Motivated by his experience as a student-athlete at Northwestern University and his own unique brand of altruism, David Kabiller (WCAS85, KSM87) is redefining what it means to be a Wildcat student-athlete — with a particular focus on helping shape the future for these promising young adults.
A former member of the Northwestern tennis team and the Academic All-Big Ten team, Kabiller has made a gift to finance the Department of Athletics and Recreation’s innovative NU for Life program. Conceived by Kabiller and Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips, NU for Life is a growing program dedicated to the professional development of Northwestern’s student-athletes. It provides opportunities for career exploration that draw on the knowledge and network of former student-athletes, friends of Wildcats Athletics, and companies seeking talented recent graduates.
“In order to do something of this magnitude, you need a champion. David Kabiller is that champion,” says Phillips. “It’s a rare individual who combines the broad institutional knowledge and professional expertise with the desire and ability to make a difference. David has approached this from every angle, and we’re fortunate to have his support,” Phillips emphasizes.
Kabiller, who is co-founder of AQR Capital Management in Greenwich, Connecticut, wants to help Northwestern’s student-athletes find their inspiration after graduation. “It’s about identifying a new passion beyond the sport,” he says.
Kabiller explains that Northwestern’s student-athletes build a unique skill set that is highly valued in the professional world. “There are very few individuals who compete at both the athletic and academic level required at Northwestern,” he says. By the time they arrive on campus, these athletes have focused a great deal of time on their sport, but most will spend even more time in a career outside of that area, says Kabiller. “The more we can do to help them self-actualize and transition seamlessly into the work world, the better.”
Phillips points out that the new program, one of only a few of its kind, is also becoming a powerful tool in recruitment. “To have a career program that actively advocates for the specialized skill set and needs of student-athletes is very appealing to the kind of high performers we seek at Northwestern,” he says.
Northwestern student-athletes' commitments to both athletics and academics can make it difficult to spend much time exploring career options. NU for Life addresses this through offerings like the popular Wildcat Professional Excellence Program (WPEP). Required of all third-year student-athletes, WPEP includes etiquette training, panel discussions, and networking with former Wildcats student-athletes. Kabiller’s gift also supports a full-time position within the athletic department, dedicated to the oversight and implementation of programming. And, more offerings are on the way, such as identifying rewarding internships that will accommodate the demanding summer practice schedules of many student-athletes.
In addition to supporting NU for Life, Kabiller has also established the Irving Kabiller Memorial Scholarship Fund. This award, in memory of his late father, will be given annually beginning in the 2013-14 school year to a senior student-athlete who exemplifies excellence in both athletics and academics. Through the award, Kabiller hopes to instill in future generations the values his father held dear, including integrity, motivation, persistence, and compassion.
Kabiller, a National Trustee of the University who is involved in endeavors across Northwestern as both a benefactor and volunteer, places a high value on inspiring excellence, creating meaningful traditions, building positive influences, and enabling better outcomes. In addition to WPEP, he hosts the annual Salons, a series of forums for the New York Northwestern community featuring luminaries from fields ranging from theatre to astrophysics. He believes annual events like these are instrumental in building a strong alumni base that is invested in the University and motivated to support its alma mater.
Kabiller’s own inspiration to support the University grew out of a meeting he had early in his career with Northwestern’s president at the time, Henry Bienen. Kabiller remembers being moved by Bienen’s passion for the University. He was also touched that the University president would take an interest in him. Today, it is Kabiller who shares his Wildcat pride and motivates others to do the same. "As a University, I believe we must give to get,” he says. “For me, it is about contributing to an outcome that helps advance Northwestern."